Last night’s show in Camden was a disappointing show. When Phish enters the old E Centre, we expect a throwdown. After the breakout improvisation at Pine Knob and Blossom last weekend and song-based rock songs during the week, I figured that they were saving a cumulative explosion of improvisation for the E Centre–I was wrong. Not only were there no jams–I obviously wouldn’t care much about that if you read my thoughts on their overall playing, as you can read about in The Feeling I Forgot: ‘IT’ Is Back—it’s that the song selection was horrible and was mixed with some poor playing. It’s a shame that the band was willing to play for over three hours last night; the first set was 91 minutes, and the second was a whopping 96 minutes; when they didn’t utilize the time correctly at all.
Last night was a giant turd, but, as the article’s title suggests, there are still a few raisins to be found.
Set 1: Rocky Top, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Stash, Tube > Guyute, Guelah Papyrus > Scent of a Mule, Cavern, The Sloth, The Curtain With
Set 2: Down with Disease, Free, Possum, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Swept Away > Steep, David Bowie, Julius, Golgi Apparatus > Fluffhead > Joy
Rocky Top oddly opened the night before heading into the second Mike’s Groove in as many sets. I’m not sure why they are overplaying Mike’s Song right now. Phish have so many songs at their disposal, why are they clinging to a small bunch of them? Why did the second set open with another Down with Disease? Why choose that song in that spot every few shows? Why not open with Seven Below, Walls of the Cave, Wolfman’s Brother, Pebbles and Marbles, Bathtub Gin, David Bowie, etc. They need to start stretching their new stuff out–as much as I love the classic Phish jam vehicles, there needs to be some new exploration with their newer material to keep them fresh. It’s frustrating always counting on seeing Mike’s, YEM, Down with Disease, Bathtub Gin, Wolfman’s Brother, Possum, AC/DC Bag, and Rock and Roll every 4 nights (or less).
Fortuneately, Weekapaug Groove contained a hot jam with some great guitar work by Trey–actually, Trey held down the middle of the first set by his glorious shredding in both Groove and Stash, both two different styles. After a nearly three-minute chat session amongst the band after Weekapaug, Stash started.
Stash was a monster. It’s nearly 15 minutes long and features some of the best inter-band jamming that I can remember recently. Trey uses his guitar as a tool to weave all he other sounds together into a sonic mesh. It’s beautiful and dark–nearly the entire jam is tension-based too. Despite the entire jam being built around a theme of beautiful tension, the jam goes right into the end of the song rather than exploding–it was SO close!
Tube was a waste of fucking time. Phish should just stop playing Tube until they are able to build jams that are longer than one minute in it. The song is made just for funky jamming, what are they thinking?
After the Tube > Guyute, Guelah trio that reminded me of the first set from Blossom a week earlier, Scent of a Mule make’s its debut for the year. Page’s part in the Mule Duel was fun–Trey’s is non-existant. At least Trey didn’t butcher it like he did Alpine’s last year.
Oops, I spoke too soon–Trey not only butchered the entire beginning to Sloth, I’m pretty sure he raped it too.
The Curtain With closer was impressive though–not only for how pretty it was played, but also for being a really great decision for a set closer. I was beginning to grow tiresome of the obvious set closers Phish would play–I missed when they would end a set on a jam, and that’s what they did last night. It almost made up for ending the second set with a fucking Joy.
When the lights went down and Down with Disease started, everyone expected the jams to come out in true E Centre fashion. The DwD jam was interesting and fun–Page got nasty on the synth. However the song was cut short for another time-wasting Free. Free, like Tube, should be shelved until they know what to do with them.
A mid-second-set Possum; do I need to say more? Well, I’ll add that it’s one of the improvisational better versions of 3.0 (not better than Blossom’s), but it’s still a fucking Possum in the middle of the second set at E Center.
Time to jam–wait, no, time for a random Big Black Furry Creature From Mars followed by an even more random Swept Away > Steep. BBFCFM and Swept Away > Steep are extremely powerful when played correctly. Just think of the beauty at SPAC last year with the Drowned > Swept Away > Steep. These are not songs meant to stand alone.
The spacey improv that followed Steep was pretty cool though. They should have skipped the Bowie it went into all together and just kept the Steep jam going. Bowie was painfully standard. It wasn’t bad at all, Trey executed the standard jam very well–however, after the last three versions we’ve been blessed with, last night’s was a step in the wrong direction. No big deal–still better than most 3.0 versions.
The last songs of the set were: Julius (horrible placement), Golgi (horrible placement), Fluffhead (horrible placement, overplayed), and Joy (placement is so bad people killed themselves).
The encore was Bold as Love.
I’m gonna sweep this one under the rug. As OPT writer, Zim, said to me, “if these are their normal shows, we have nothing to worry about”.